The way I see it, the incident was all Lucy’s fault. Sis has to be carried down the three back steps to our patio to get to the backyard to go potty. She can come back up on her own, so after someone carries her down, we leave the door – which is covered with a magnetic screen – open. But who am I to criticize? Coming back up the steps is obviously more than I can do, as the following story will make perfectly clear.
Last Sunday evening, I was indulging in my annual consumption of 9/11 documentaries whilst crocheting a Christmas afghan (as one does) and decided to take a break to quickly clean the kitchen and let Lucy out. So I scooped her up, carried her down the back steps, and deposited her on the patio. After pausing a moment to look at the sunset, I turned around to go back inside. What happened next is a blur. I was wearing slip on house shoes and I can only assume one got caught either on the upper step or on the threshold going in the house, and I tripped. Instinctually, I grabbed for the door knob (big mistake, huge) and the already open door swung further in, and I went down. Whatever happened, I was on the floor and my shoulder and arm were in agony.
I suppose I made some kind of ridiculous noises because Sarah came running from her room and found me inside the house in the doorway. My shoulder felt as if I had “wrenched it” and if I could just straighten it out, there would be relief, but there was no moving it. As Sarah ran to find Trever, Lucy calmly walked back up the steps, walked in around me, and went about her business, totally non-plussed. As much as I hated the thought of going to the emergency room, we knew it was necessary; I was in my pajamas so I managed to pull on some knit bike shorts with a tank top and the holiest, rattiest sweater I own because it was lightweight and stretchy across my arms.
We arrived at the ER to a rather crowded waiting room and probably had around a two hour wait before we were seen. My pain was mitigated by holding my arm very closely to my side and I was having a slightly better evening than the gunshot wound patient who was tossed out on his ear by two police officers after being treated – they made him take his hospital gown off in the parking lot! Or the man who came in with an alligator bite on his hand. Although to be fair, it must have been a small alligator; the wound wasn’t that impressive.
I fully expected to find that I had sustained a bad sprain but was astounded to learn I had an actual “fracture of the humeral head.” When we asked, the ER doctor told us “a fracture is a break and a break is a fracture”. Nice. My well documented clumsiness and our elderly wiener dog caused me to BREAK my shoulder. I knew part of the problem is that I have mild osteopenia from estrogen suppression medication I have taken for years as part of post cancer treatment. But thankfully, I also knew that the break wasn’t due to any metastatic issues with my bones (both from a clean bone scan a few months ago and from the x-rays). Very often, people find out about metastatic disease incidentally after an injury which results in a fracture.
There was nothing left to do but send me home with a splint, a prescription for a few days of pain meds, and a referral to an orthopedic doctor. An injection of morphine wasn’t quite the trip I thought it might be and after a late night McD’s run and trip through CVS we finally made it home around 1:30 a.m. I took a very short and awkward shower and settled in to bed as best as I could.
Trever called and scheduled an appointment with the orthopedist on the earliest available date of Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are a bit of a blur. I stayed in my room with all three of the poor doggos relegated to the living room, didn’t feel much like eating or drinking, and made awkward trips to the bathroom. Let me pause for a minute to say that Trever and Sarah have totally stepped up taking care of me, the house, and the dogs. It’s a lot!
The appointment with the orthopedist confirmed what the ER doctor had said. It was a fracture, but it was nondisplaced, so surgery would not likely be necessary. They gave me a fancy abduction sling (well, it wasn’t a gift, I am sure I was charged for it) but it is large and awkward and I haven’t been able to wear it properly, so I am still wearing the sling from the ER. I am to go back in two weeks for follow up x-rays and I suppose I will get further information then as far as how long I will have to wear a sling/keep my shoulder immobilized.
Aside from the physical pain and discomfort and sleepless nights this week I have dealt with a LOT of emotions about this current situation. I am terribly grateful that I have a support system. Not only do I have Trever and Sarah at home, but I know that I would just have to make a call and my mom, sister-in-law, nieces or Abby could be here with anything I needed. I am grateful I have a flexible job that I can mostly do from home; I managed to stay upright on my laptop all day Thursday and considered it a win. I am thankful my injury isn’t worse and it doesn’t appear that I will have to have surgery, provided I am careful. I am thankful for insurance and medical care, knowing that a trip to the ER won’t financially devastate us the way it could for some.
However, I have found being thrust into a “patient” role has caused not a small amount of distress, anxiety, and fear. I am all about having a break (puns!), but I absolutely despise asking people to do things for me. A giant part of my identity is still running a household. Cooking, cleaning, errands -that’s what I do. I can’t drive right now and the fact that my dominant arm is injured makes simple tasks even more difficult. I catastrophized for the majority of this week and had quite the pity party. The thought of being “helpless”, especially as we go into my favorite part of the year for baking, decorating and crafts was almost grief inducing for me. That thought process led to guilt….this is a temporary injury, it isn’t a major life altering disease.
Because I HAVE had the above mentioned life altering disease, I believe no small part of my emotions are triggered by a PTSD type response. I know how much my cancer affected other people and I don’t want people worrying about me or having to care for me. In addition, the associations of falls/broken bones has led me to have a perception of myself of an “older woman” far sooner than I would want. And part of me is just being a pouty baby that I can’t do what I want when I want!
Throughout this week, I have been reassured by everyone that “this too shall pass” and even if I am in a sling for some time, I can still carry on about life as semi usual. I have found through trial and error that I can type if I put my laptop in the right position and pull it toward me at a certain angle. I even crocheted for a bit this afternoon on the granny squares for my blanket I am making. If I am really intent on performing household chores, I can do quite a bit one handed. And I may just have to accept the fact that I will have to have help in the kitchen for awhile (the horror!)
I am not one to think that “everything happens for a reason” and/or there is some great life lesson to be learned here. The fact of the matter is, I tripped, I have a fracture/break, I will adjust, I will heal. I would like to think I will be more careful in the future but the mere fact I have a six inch scar on my other arm from the great pickle jar incident of 2015 would seem to indicate otherwise. So happy fall y’all. It’s going to be an interesting couple of months.
-Karri Temple Brackett
September 17, 2022